Part 1—Candidate Carson's lie: Instantly, they became points of pseudoliberal dogma:
Candidate Carson lied at last Wednesday's debate! And how do we know that Carson lied? Because PolitiFact said!
For ourselves, we wouldn't say that Carson lied, although that could still be demonstrated. We would say this:
The liberal world reacted in an unintelligent, childish way to last Wednesday night's debate. Having said that, we'd also say this:
The moderators from CNBC were unskilled, pitiful, unintelligent, not real serious, clueless. Their hap[less journalistic conduct was a gift to the GOP.
To people in the conservative world, those moderators' hapless performance will look like a famous old demon—media liberal bias. The reaction of pundits like the New York Times' Charles Blow actually is liberal bias.
We'll look at Blow's column tomorrow. Assuming even minimal competence, Blow and his editor agreed to deceive Times readers.
For today, let's consider a performance which was even worse, considering the high caliber of its source. We refer to Paul Krugman's column in last Friday's Times.
Krugman said that Candidate Carson lied, then called him something worse. Below, you see the start of one of the worst columns Krugman has ever written.
To conservatives, work like this looks like that famous old devil, liberal bias. In the case of Krugman's column, we'd say the charge is fair:
KRUGMAN (10/30/15): Springtime for GriftersWas Krugman making deceptive claims in that passage? Consider one example:
At one point during Wednesday’s Republican debate, Ben Carson was asked about his involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplements company that makes outlandish claims about its products and has been forced to pay $7 million to settle a deceptive-practices lawsuit. The audience booed, and Mr. Carson denied being involved with the company. Both reactions tell you a lot about the driving forces behind modern American politics.
As it happens, Mr. Carson lied. He has indeed been deeply involved with Mannatech, and has done a lot to help promote its merchandise. PolitiFact quickly rated his claim false, without qualification. But the Republican base doesn’t want to hear about it, and the candidate apparently believes, probably correctly, that he can simply brazen it out. These days, in his party, being an obvious grifter isn’t a liability, and may even be an asset.
From that account, a reader would think that the audience booed when Carson was asked about Mannatech—before Carson made his denial. That rather obvious suggestion is just flatly false.
In fact, the audience booed after the second follow-up question by Carl Quintanilla, one of CNBC's trio of hapless moderators. That third question concluded a journalistically hapless exchange which lasted roughly one minute and led to a shower of pleasing tribal claims.
Can we talk? The follow-up question which got booed was just utterly silly. Simply put, Quintanilla's question deserved to be booed.
To conservative voters, questions like Quintanilla's follow-up question will look like examples of liberal bias. For ourselves, we wouldn't make that assumption about the motives behind Quintanilla's question or his overall hapless performance. But then, we also wouldn't change the chronology of an exchange to heighten our case against that Republican audience. And we'd be happy to state the truth:
On a journalistic basis, Quintanilla's follow-up question was hapless. So was a great deal of CNBC's work this night.
Inevitably, performances like CNBC's will trigger cries of liberal bias. So will columns like Krugman's.
In the case of Krugman's column, we'd say the charge is accurate. Here's why:
In the passage shown above, Krugman accuses Candidate Carson of lying at the debate. As he continues, he accuses Carson of something else. He says that Carson's a grifter.
Regarding the claim that Carson lied, Krugman's standard of evidence is remarkably weak. "PolitiFact quickly rated his claim false," Krugman says, as it that "quick" assessment somehow settled this question.
We hate to be the killjoy here, but as the years have rolled along, PolitiFact has performed increasingly lazy work. In this case, PolitiFact's "ruling" (their term) was delivered by Lauren Carroll, who graduated from college in June 2014.
Corporate entities make such hires to keep labor costs down, making owners happy. The quality of the journalism may suffer in the process.
In the case of Carson's claims about Mannatech, Carroll called his statement "a stretch." In our view, she did a rather lazy job sorting out the facts in question. But so what?
Thee careless work of a college kid was good enough for Professor Krugman! Conservatives will call this "liberal bias." We'd say they have a strong point.
We'll examine the claim that Carson lied a bit more as the week rolls on. For today, let's consider Krugman's second claim, the claim that Carson is a "grifter."
Also, consider the ease with which Krugman extends this insulting claim to other Republican candidates. This is the way he continued in this unfortunate column:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): And this doesn’t just go for outsider candidates like Mr. Carson and Donald Trump. Insider politicians like Marco Rubio are simply engaged in a different, classier kind of scam—and they are empowered in part by the way the grifters have defined respectability down.That is a very strange paragraph. It provides the gateway to a column which recalls Joe McCarthy's work.
In the course of his column, Krugman says and suggests that he's naming the names of a long list of grifters. That said, please note the lazy bases on which he'll extend this charge.
Presumably, Candidate Carson is a grifter because he has somehow made money from a company's fraudulent claims. PolitiFact offers no evidence of such behavior, but the G-bomb gets dropped anyway.
That ascription is slippery enough. But in the passage posted above, Candidate Trump is quickly called a "grifter" too, with Krugman making no attempt to explain this unpleasant charge. Candidate Rubio is quickly thrown in the stew as well, although he is said to be engaged in a classier kind of scam.
We would agree with that assessment. But note the way this unfortunate column by Krugman proceeds.
As he proceeds, Krugman describes three levels of "grifters." He has already fingered Carson and Trump as grifters, in the latter case with no explanation at all. As he continues, he names the names of other alleged grifters, sometimes naming names and explaining the nature of his charges.
Krugman names names! He names the name of "former Congressman Ron Paul," who isn't an actual candidate.
He also names the name of Glenn Beck. Beck's not a candidate either.
In the course of naming these names, another person who is a candidate seems to get nailed as a grifter. Pulling a list from his inside pocket, Krugman names that additional name rather late in his column:
KRUGMAN: At a higher level still [of grifter scams] are operations that are in principle engaging in political activity, but mainly seem to be generating income for their organizers. Last week The Times published an investigative report on some political action committees raising money in the name of anti-establishment conservative causes. The report found that the bulk of the money these PACs raise ends up going to cover administrative costs and consultants’ fees, very little to their ostensible purpose. For example, only 14 percent of what the Tea Party Leadership Fund spends is “candidate focused.”Suddenly, Candidate Cruz seems to be maybe a grifter too, without any explanation of how he earned inclusion with previous grifters Carson and Trump. "Furthermore, the success of the grifters has a profound effect on the whole party," Krugman says as he continued. "As I said, it defines respectability down."
You might think that such revelations would be politically devastating. But the targets of such schemes know, just know, that the liberal mainstream media can’t be trusted, that when it reports negative stories about conservative heroes it’s just out to suppress people who are telling the real truth. It’s a closed information loop, and can’t be broken.
And a lot of people live inside that closed loop. Current estimates say that Mr. Carson, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz together have the support of around 60 percent of Republican voters.
Did Krugman define journalistic respectability down with this unfortunate column? This column throws ugly charges around in much the way Tailgunner Joe once did. The whole thing starts with a pleasing passage in which Krugman reinvents a simple chronology to make his pleasing claims stick. He then turns to an underwhelming college kid to settle a serious charge.
Very, very late in his column, Krugman gets to the heart of the mess which surrounds the candidates who stood on that stage last Wednesday night. Only then does he start to explain the way Candidate Rubio's name got thrown into the "grifter stew" he ladled at the start of his column.
Conservative voters will see this column as an example of liberal bias. It's hard to say they're wrong.
The column's straight outta McCarthy! Krugman drops G-bombs on candidates' heads without a hint of explanation or justification. In the case of Candidate Carson, he links to the work of a college kid who doesn't allege that Carson took money on the basis of fake product claims.
Krugman rarely does this, but that column was McCarthyistic. It shows what can happen when Even Our Very Best let tribal feelings hold sway.
Yesterday morning, Krugman was back to a serious column about serious issues. On Friday, though, he performed very poorly.
Here's the worst part of Friday's column. As he rampaged about the grifters, Krugman largely failed to discuss the utterly crazy budget proposals those ten candidates have made. And he failed to do something else:
He failed to discuss the horrible work done by those hapless CNBC moderators.
Please understand the situation those moderators faced last Wednesday night. Before them stood a row of candidates with the craziest budget plans ever presented. Meanwhile, the moderators hailed from a major news org with a focus on business, finance, economics.
Before them stood ten crazy plans. But the moderators engaged in mountains of drivel and oceans of snark. Their utter lack of focus was their defining trait this night. Their pitiful journalistic conduct was a gift to the GOP.
The liberal world has refused to see or say these things. We prefer to rampage around saying that Candidate Carson lied. How do we know he lied? Because a college kid said!
Truly, we liberals are utterly hapless. It's true almost all the way down.
Tomorrow: Charles Blow's liberal bias